The Defence Ministry, in response to a direction by the Cabinet Committee on Investment (CCI), has given a partial go-ahead to two oil and gas blocks in areas near defence installations even while five others continued to remain in the ‘no-go’ service zone.
While five blocks, bagged by Oil and Natural gas Corporation (ONGC), BG Group of UK and Cairn India, will continue to be in the ‘no-go’ areas, Reliance Industries Limited (RIL) received relief its KG D6 gas block and discovery block of NEC-25 in the Bay of Bengal. All of these seven blocks were either close to a proposed naval base or were close to a missile launching area. Nearly 30 per cent of the KG-D6 block overlapped with one of the Navy's firing and exercise areas and was branded a ‘no-go’ zone. The Ministry was of the view that any exploration and production activities near its naval base would hamper surveillance and detection operations.
Following this, RIL agreed to relinquish 495 sq. km of area, qualifying it for receiving a formal nod from defence authorities.
Similarly, about 60-70 per cent of the NEC-OSN-97/2 (NEC-25) block fell within a 50 km radius of the Chandipur Missile launch pad.
ONGC's two KG basin blocks, KG-OSN-2005/1 and KG-OSN-2005/2, have not been cleared as they fall directly within the boundary of a proposed naval base. Also, the firm's KG-OSN-2009/4 block fell within the range of DRDO's Machhlipatnam launch site and IAF's Suryalanka guided weapon firing range (GWFR).
BG’s block KG-DWN-2009/1 fell right at the entry of the proposed naval base and hence the Navy could not grant clearance while Cairn's KG-OSN-2009/3 block was in the proximity of the Suryalanka GWFR. The Ministry has also imposed stringent conditions for the exploration of the other 32 blocks.